Indian elite are prone to debating non-issues ad infinitum. One such raging debate is about the change of a name in Haryana. It has fuelled the imagination of the English media moguls, who were spurred to instant offence at the Haryana government announcing suddenly their decision to change the name of Gurgaon to Gurugram. Both mean the same. It is only a change in spelling. For correct phonetic transcription, it is right to do so. For the elite, Gurgaon is the millennium city, a city to which they “belong”. It is ‘owned” by them and they frown at anybody else laying claim to its assets, including any allusion to its past. It is their global city, the city of MNCs. They don’t entertain claims to any original name of the place. They see in it attempts to revive Hindu culture or history, a crude attempt at Sanskritization, a sinister design on the part of the ruling BJP government and the right wing groups like the RSS. They have written dozens of stories and articles running into no less than 100000 words (calculate by the number of words a national English newspaper prints on one page x dozens of pages printed), besides endless debates on content starved TV channels.
Why is it such a big thing for them? Their fears flow from their mental association of the proper noun Gurugram with the legendry teacher of the Kauravs & Pandavs of the epic Mahabharat. These elite are always eager to proudly celebrate any writer from the Latin American countries but not India’s own invaluable epic the Mahabharat. What can you expect from such elite, intellectuals, journalists and other opinion makers in the country? The whole debate is spurious as all these four words mean the same thing. If one were to correctly spell the current name of the place “Gurgaon”, it shall be spelt as “Gurugaon”. It is for ease of speaking that the layman tends to pronounce words and names as he finds it most convenient. While grammatically Gurugaon is correct, pronouncing it as Gurgaon is easier. The Hindi spelling on all signage reads it as “Gudgaon”. The English language tends to use “r” for “d” sound in Hindi. So, the Hindi version becomes Gurgaon in English. It is not written on any road sign as Gurgaon in Hindi. So it is Gudgaon. Now, these elite must tell how does Gudgaon refer to the legendry Guru Dronacharya of the Mahabharat? I am more than certain that they will not find their answer easily. “Gud” translates to “jaggery”, which is a commonly consumed sweetener in India, made from sugarcane juice without converting it to sugar or anything else. As far as is known, Gudgaon has never been known to be a producer of Gud (it can even be pronounced as good). But it has certainly been known for its Gurus (distinct from one Guru). Unfortunately, Indian intellectuals neither delve deep into history nor tolerate others making efforts to look into some historical aspects which might lead to results different from their own conclusions.
Let me remind them that India had excelled in the field of higher education in ancient times- Taxila (also written as Takshashila), Bikramshila, Nalanda, Ujjaiyani, Varanasi and several other places. What is today called Gurgaon was, in all probability, a renowned complex of higher education, specializing in particular in military science. It is necessary to examine in greater detail many facts of history dispassionately, without poisoning it with the notions of flawed secularism. One fact that demands such examination is: why was the geographical location of present Gurgaon chosen for such educational institutions (or even one run by Guru Dronacharya, if one restricts his own interpretation of history to that conclusion in the absence of any historical evidence to validate that claim)? The answer lies hidden in the terrain- the Aravali mountain range. It is comparatively a greener area, with salubrious climate, thick forests, rich wild life, small principalities (actually “Desh”, (which translates to country), each one keen on proper education and arms training for the scions of the Royal families and their soldiers. It was a part of the kingdom of the last Hindu King of Delhi, Prithviraj Chauhan. He was a great warrior, so were his ancestors. The capital of the Delhi of Prithviraj Chauhan was Mehrauli, which housed scores of Hindu, Jain and other temples. Some of the magnificent temples were destroyed by the Muslim invaders, to whom Prithviraj Chauhan lost due to the treacherous acts of Jaichand, after defeating the aggressors several times in the past. Some 27 magnificent temples were destroyed in the Kutub Minar complex of tourist attraction. The iron pillar still stands there, baffling the greatest metallurgists of the world as to why it has not rusted even after 1000 years of exposure to extreme hot/cold/rainy Delhi weather. Modern scientific equipment and techniques can reveal the foundations of those temples even without excavation as ground radars can get the image. But the government has not done it so far. How long can history be allowed to remain buried? Someday it is bound to surface. Who knows what literature is buried there. Where have all the manuscripts of Takshashila, Vikramshila, Nalanda and Mehrauli gone? We can only presume that they were saved and safely hidden somewhere. Unless we attempt to dig them out, we will continue to be disconnected from our umbilical cord of Indian history. It might look unbelievable for most people, but let me record my experience of feeling a magnetic vibration while walking in the area surrounding the Kutub Minar and the Chhatarpur temple complex. It need not be repeated that sites for temples were located after careful study of many aspects and that piece of land was chosen which was considered the best meeting all the requirements. What these requirements were can be answered by any religious scholar if the question is addressed to him. For the elite it should suffice that MNCs take into consideration umpteen issues before deciding on locating their offices or projects.
If Gurugaon was the place housing teaching complexes in ancient India, there is no reason to make such high decibel noise about changing its name. Gurugaon became Gudgaon (spelt as Gurgaon like the same way Kanpur once was spelt as Cawnpore). In rural areas it is Gudganma. (Gurgaon is disyllabic whereas Gudganma is monosyllabic). So the seat of learning in the Delhi kingdom of Hindu Kings, if known as Gurugaon re-establishes and revives its history, it should be welcome rather than criticized. The only point for debate to be determined by the historians would be whether it was Gurgaon or Gurugaon or Gurugram.
It will depend on how old is Gurgaon. Takshashila & Vikramshila carry the distinct Sanskrit imprint to decide their ancient lineage. It seems Gurgaon may be a later founding of a Seat of Learning. There appears to be gap of centuries, as Sanskrit had yielded place to Prakrit and other languages. Besides, the names in Haryana indicate to a language different from Sanskrit. Mehrauli in Delhi does not boast of too much Sanskrit. That suggests the establishment of Gurugaon at a later date. While naming places or people, the purity of the language was not allowed to be compromised, even though usage tended to be different. The influence of Brijbhasha is too apparent in the areas surrounding Delhi that the name Gurugaon might have been from that language. The enthusiasts of the change would immediately draw attention to the name of another key Mahabharat time city Kurukshetra, which exists even today as a thriving city and where the battle was fought and try to convince that it was indeed the Gurugram of Dronacharya. They will need to marshal enough evidence to win public approval to their claim.
All debate must end with right spelling of the place as “Gurugaon” without introducing the stronger to pronounce Gurugram. It needs effort on the part of the user to say Gurugram whereas Gurugaon flows smoothly. It should satisfy the government and the elite alike.